5 Things You Need to Know About Israel's Conservative Star Ayelet Shaked

Ayalet Shaked /GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images
May 28, 2015

Throughout Ayelet Shaked’s rise from the "political desert" to a member of the new Israeli cabinet, her political opponents have belittled her good looks.

This critical Haaretz op-ed last year, for example, described Shaked as a "young and pretty" woman in the Knesset with "unbridled teenage-style enthusiasm" and a "childish worship" of Israeli nationalism. Her "irresponsible violence belies her appearance," it said.

She came out of negotiations to build a right-wing coalition following last month's election as Israel’s new justice minister, and the sexist attacks continued.

One former minister remarked, "This is the first time in Israel that the justice minister can star on the calendars that hang in garages."

She has been compared to Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin—both veterans of having opponents define them by their looks.

"Who cares if she's beautiful? Ayelet Shaked is dangerous," read one headline. The article said that she has been lucky to be the victim of vile sexist attacks.

The reason Shaked has successfully risen to where she is today is because she is much more than just a pretty face. Here are five things you need to know about Israel’s justice minister: 

1. Shaked started her political career as Benjamin Netanyahu’s office director, but left on bad terms

Ayalet Shaked Twitter
Ayalet Shaked Twitter

When Netanyahu was the leader of the opposition Likud party, Shaked was his assistant.

She began that job in 2006, joining Netanyahu when he was "in the political desert." She, along with her current political ally Naftali Bennett, broke off to start a new party after a personal dispute with Netanyahu.

According to one account, they had a "big fight" and have not been on speaking terms since, which made the recent coalition building between Netanyahu’s Likud and Shaked’s Jewish Home party a challenge.

2. Shaked knows how to fight liberal, anti-Israel media bias

Ayelet Shaked hiking in Israel's Golan Heights / Facebook
Ayelet Shaked hiking in Israel's Golan Heights / Facebook

Shaked was the victim of liberal media bias last summer when the Daily Beast's Gideon Resnick created a media firestorm by writing that she was a racist who "declared war" on Palestinian people and referred to Palestinian children as "little snakes" on her Facebook page.

The article was updated after Shaked pointed out that the words posted weren’t her own, and that the awful translation was provided to the writer by a group "dedicated to the daily and hourly vilification" of Israel.

She also attacked Resnick for relying on Haaretz—which she attacked as being worse than the "liberal, curious" New York Times.

"Expecting Haaretz to write about a political opponent like myself in an honest, informative—if critical—manner, is a little like expecting Gideon Resnick to offer an unbiased, honest citation from a pro-Zionist post," wrote Shaked. "And so, when Haaretz, read by a mere 30,000 Israelis, give or take, says I'm racist—I'd look for a more reliable source." 

In 2010, Shaked founded the MyIsrael movement "to counter the spread of lies and misinformation against Israel that appears online today."

She was given the 2012 Abramowitz Israeli Prize for Media Criticism for her work.

3. As an IDF soldier, Shaked was stationed in the heart of the West Bank

Ayelet Shaked / Facebook
Ayelet Shaked / Facebook

Shaked served as an instructor in the Israeli Defense Forces and credits her experience for her political views.

She was an instructor in the IDF’s Golani Brigade, which prides itself for being the finest combat division in the army. She was stationed in the Israeli city of Hebron—the largest city in the West Bank.

4. Before politics, Shaked made it in Israel’s ‘Silicon Valley’

Ayalet Shaked /GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images

Israel’s ability to overcome its small size and constant state of war to become "start-up nation" won it international admiration—and Shaked was part of it.

Shaked got her degree in electrical engineering and computer science from Tel Aviv University. She rolled that degree into a career as a software engineer for Texas Instruments.

5. The criticism doesn’t get to her 

Ayelet Shaked / GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images
Ayelet Shaked / GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images

Shaked says she doesn’t let emotions get the best of her when it comes to dealing with criticism.

"If you get into emotions, then it disturbs your work," Shaked told the New York Times. "Sometimes you focus on what’s less important and not the main thing."

Her family and friends describe her as a "robot" for the way she goes about her business without being sensitive to the constant stream of attacks sent her way.

Though the attacks don’t distract her from her mission, she has grown tired of the unoriginal criticism coming from her left-wing critics in the media.

"People pay money for your newspaper, shouldn’t you try to give them some new material?" said Shaked last year in regards to Haaretz. "Like a freshman on his first college exam, you go over and over your checklist, which is familiar to the point of exhaustion, to make sure all the right words appear there: racism, messianism, aggression, binationalism, and—of course—the end of Zionism."